The Voice of God in History (Part 1)

Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
Full alchemized, and free of space. Behold
The clear religion of heaven.
— John Keats, Endymion

Resonance of the Heart

A number of years ago, when I would sit down to pray each morning, the lyrics, “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” would run through my mind. The song was stuck in my head on endless repeat, like a catchy chorus or a nursery rhyme.

At first, I would try and ignore or suppress the song, finding it a distraction in my attempt to quiet myself. Over time, it began to dawn on me that this song was a result of the presence of God. God was whispering to my tender heart about sonship. I was his “son-shine.” Over time the message dropped deeper and deeper into my heart. Some mornings I heard that song incessantly, and some He would whisper through scripture: “You are My beloved son, in you I find pleasure.”

The Lord was addressing deep insecurities in my life. Each morning His quiet whisper would assure my unsteady heart. As I read and studied scripture, I found myself identifying with the moments of deep insecurity those men and women experienced. The quiet whisper of God to Elijah became my new normal.

There was no earth-shattering revelation.

No incredible visitation.

No supernatural prophecies or visions.

It was just my heart resonating with the tenderness of His heart.


Daily Expectations

Of course, there were times when the sense of His voice speaking to my heart grew distant. Just as in any relationship, the intensity of it waxes and wanes. 

Hearing His voice may not be a daily occurrence for everyone, but it should become an expectation.

And this was not something that only I had discovered. Scripture may be replete with examples of God speaking to His people, but was Christian history? As I read, I began to realize that this inner speaking to the heart was something that was firmly rooted throughout Christianity. And the speaking of God recorded by the great authors of Christian history was so thoroughly biblical, oftentimes they would quote the verse in support of they had just heard God whisper to them.

Take Augustine of Hippo in the fourth century. In his book Confessions, Augustine recounted hearing God speak to him:

"...I heard this Your voice from on high: “I am the food of grown men; grow and you will feed upon Me; but you will not convert Me, like the food that feeds your body, into you, but you shalt be converted into Me.”

Augustine found the truth of this statement anchored in Psalm 39:11:

When with rebukes You correct man for iniquity, You make his beauty melt away like a moth; Surely every man is vapor.

As God spoke, Augustine would feed on Him. As he fed on God, Augustine would fade, and God would crystalize.

He went on to say: “And I heard, as the heart hears, nor had I room to doubt, and I should sooner doubt that I live than that Truth is not…” The Lord had whispered to his heart.

Blessed Are The…

Thomas A’ Kempis (15th century), in the devotional classic The Imitation of Christ, extols the blessedness of hearing the voice of God in the heart:

  • Blessed is the soul which hears the Lord Speaking within her, and receives from his mouth the word of consolation.

  • Blessed are the ears that gladly receive the pulses of the divine whisper, and give no heed to the many whisperings of this world.

  • Blessed indeed are those ears which hearken not to the voice which is sounding without, but unto the truth teaching inwardly.

  • Blessed are the eyes which are shut to outward things, but intent on inward things.

  • Blessed are they that enter far into things internal, and endeavor to prepare themselves more and more, by daily exercises, for the receiving of heavenly secrets.

He goes on to tell of words whispered to his heart from God:

“What I have promised, I will give; what I have said I will make good, if only any man remain faithful in My love even to the end. I am the Rewarder of all good men, and the strong Approver of all who are devoted to Me. Write My words in your heart, and meditate diligently on them; for in time of temptation they will be very necessary for you."

Fruitful Motivation

An anonymous Desert Father (4th-6th century), in offering advice for how to deal with young monks who sought the glory of men for their spiritual work, said that the voice of God would quickly correct their motivation:

”Since, therefore, they conduct themselves in this way, exercising themselves in Virtue in order to please men, there will come upon them the Grace of God, Who will say to them in a mystical whisper: ’Why are you laboring for men and not for Me?’ And then, overcome by the Grace of the heart, they will be persuaded not to attend to the glory of men any longer, but to seek the glory of God.”

John of the Cross, in the 16th century had a well-developed teaching for leading his disciples into hearing the voice of God. His counsel in The Ascent of Mount Carmel was that new believers must first focus on acquiring purity of soul through service, discipline, and compassionate acts before they focused on hearing the voice of God. He had seen many fall to pride and error because they were caught up with the experience rather than being formed into the image of Christ:

“I am terrified by what passes among us in these days. Anyone, who has barely begun to meditate, if he becomes conscious of these locutions (voices) during his self-recollection, pronounces them forthwith to be the work of God, and, considering them to be so, says, God has spoken to me, or, I have had an answer from God.”

He goes on to say:

“They think that these locutions are great things, that God has been speaking to them, when in truth all was little more than nothing, or nothing, or less than nothing. For what is that worth which does not beget humility and charity, mortification, and holy simplicity and silence?”

The inner experience must produce the fruit of the Spirit for it to be considered truly from God.

Share your thoughts…

Do you practice sitting in God’s presence? Is it easy or challenging?

What was the last thing God told you about yourself?

Do you expect to hear God speak to you every day?

Have you ever found yourself ‘laboring’ to hear God’s voice?